The presence of stupidity

Image_Elyeser Szturm

By Valdemir Pires*

The government of Jair Bolsonaro, already a global embarrassment for Brazil, disseminated in the country a false dilemma between the right to health and the right to employment

In the face of any challenge or problem, making use of knowledge as the first step towards facing or solving it is the right and desirable attitude, in the sense that it is the attitude most likely to lead to responses and solutions with greater and better impact. Challenges and complex problems, in turn, require scientific knowledge to be faced, because this type of knowledge, due to the way it is constructed, in research environments (reviews of the state of the art, in-depth analysis, methodologies that guarantee objectivity, evaluations by peers, etc.), has the effect of shortening the time to reach what is needed or desired, with the most effective and lasting resolution possible. It is not by chance that all contemporary societies withdraw many of their members and a large part of their resources from the directly productive process, allocating them to research, many of which are basic, that is, without immediate application. In research and development (R&D) and science and technology (S&T) a portion of the GDP of all countries is invested; the richer the country, the greater this percentage and, consequently, the richer and more secure the investor is and will be. It makes no sense to disregard knowledge, much less scientific knowledge, to understand and solve the problems of the contemporary world, whether individual or collective. Some may want to go back to walking on all fours, having the right to do so: what they cannot do is claim or demand that everyone do it, or impose on others the end of the devices used by the upright man: tables, seats, cutlery, vehicles, machines and tools, theories. The Earth is definitely round and no more theory is needed to prove it: there are satellites to show in footage; what is at stake now is to advance, as we are already advancing, to reach the “neighboring” stars. Point. No more talk about it.

Knowledge, however, is not everything, because there are many circumstances, in the individual and collective lives of men, in which objectivity is not possible and, therefore, choices have to be made. In these circumstances, values ​​and principles come into question, inserted in individual consciences from subjective elements: life trajectory, moment of life (childhood, youth, maturity, old age), previous and desired relationships (affective, professional, political, social) , interests (personal, group, class, etc.), points of view, etc. Since the values ​​built and/or embraced by each one, according to their circumstances, conveniences and desires, need to be “negotiated”, confronted with each other, so that one or the other prevails, in those situations of life in which what some want does not it is what others accept or desire. It is from this inevitable splitting of men among themselves that the need for politics arises: when subjectivities are in disarray, opposition, confrontation or conflict, it is necessary to use power to, via power, manage differences (democratically or authoritatively — another basic choice). And, at this moment, of decision under conflict, a question arises: is knowledge enough to decide well and correctly? And the answer is: No, knowledge (including and, in some cases, mainly, scientific knowledge) must be taken into account, but it is not enough, it does not cover everything that is at stake. What else is needed then? The answer: WISDOM. Wisdom begins by making use of knowledge, but it leads to adjacent areas, it leads to those gray points (still unclear) in the world, in life, in relationships, points surrounded by doubts and questions and pierced by them. Wisdom is needed to deal with passions and desires, with affections, with conflicts and uncertainties, with human doubts and fears. It is a sensitive knowledge that does not seek truths, but pursues what is desirable or, at least, what is acceptable to all (in an always precarious consensus) so that life goes on and is in accordance with what men can, without destroying themselves, without make coexistence impossible. She is the only door that opens in the face of insoluble dilemmas (Sophie's so-called choices). On whose side is wisdom when a decision (about, for example, which of the five young people affected by Covid-19 will have the hospital respirator, at the moment when they are all waiting, at risk of death?) has to be taken for someone? Furthermore, can such a decision be made by a single person, in the light of his personal judgment?

What has been exposed so far should be enough to understand the depth of loss and risk represented by the presence and manifestation, at any time and place, of stupidity (inability to make use of reason to decide and act) and ignorance (insufficient data information to decide and act) among men. Combating stupidity and ignorance is a civilizing condition, it is a condition for living well, individually and socially. This is fully established. Anti-intellectualism, the attack on scientific knowledge and its holders, the disregard for schools and universities, the affront to education and culture, the manipulation of information are manifestations that come from the darkness and lead to them. Point. No more talk about it.

That said (although not accepted by the most reluctant ones), it is necessary to talk about the AD pandemic (note the feminine) Covid-19 (COrona VIrus Disease 2019, SARS-CoV-2). Talking and listening a lot, that is, debating, discussing a lot — at the moment there is immense ignorance about this, starting with the use of the name in the masculine, when it comes to “disease, illness, disease (Disease) Covid-19". Yes, it is necessary to reflect collectively on this pandemic, because this terrible disease, little known and transmissible in geometric progression (very quickly from the first contagion) is changing the world in depth, affecting, from the outset, the human condition in its aspects elements: condition of social being (who necessarily lives with others), condition of political animal (who is immersed in an environment affected by power) and condition of homos economicus (which depends on interaction and exchange to obtain its material conditions of existence). Even if the current pandemic is overcome, humanity will not be able to go back to what it was, because if it does, it will not have learned the necessary from it, becoming as vulnerable to the next one (which will come) as it is before this one.

It is also necessary to reflect on the unfolding of the pandemic in Brazil, given the specificities of the case. Covid-19 arrived in the country at a socially, economically and politically unfavorable, not to say catastrophic, moment. While confronting them requires social cohesion, national unity and concerted collective action, governments at the forefront, Brazilians are deeply divided among themselves, because of a political-ideological dispute that has been dragging on since the beginning of the decade, and are, even as a result this division, under an erratic central government (to say the least), incapable of solving even much smaller problems than this one, now, of public health.

The government of Jair Bolsonaro, already a global embarrassment for Brazil, spread in the country a false dilemma between the right to health and the right to employment. This with the powerful help of his fellow flat-Earthers and supporters of gratuitous hatred, amplified by the explicit use of social networks that spread lies (or fakenews) and generating mass ignorant and stupid people. As a result, the debate on facing the pandemic is taking place, at the national level, in a polarized way, between those who think that social isolation must end (so that the economy does not stop and jobs and businesses are not lost – economy before, health later) and those who think that social isolation should be maintained, for as long as necessary, whatever the cost — health first, economy later). A biased debate, based on a false dilemma, typical of those who do not think, considering the complexity of things and phenomena, typical, therefore, of the horde of ignorant and stupid people (without sparing the proper and correctly applied adjectives) who elected and (to a lesser extent amount) still support the clearly ignorant and stupid Jair Bolsonaro — a “myth”, yes, right in the era of knowledge and information!, in which the myth is what is accepted and exalted as superior precisely because it is not understood from rationality , myth in the worst sense of the word. 

There is no incompatibility between deciding and acting to preserve people's lives and the level of activity and employment in the country. What is on the agenda is to preserve as much as possible the physical integrity of economic agents (since, above all, they are and will continue to be necessary after the crisis) and, at the same time, to avoid as much as possible the negative impacts of temporary inactivity of workers ( for without production there is no sustenance for life) on the economic system and process. The confrontation to be carried out encompasses two simultaneous fronts. What has to be done is to prevent the spread of Covid-19 at an exponential rate, making it impossible for lives to be saved by the equipment and teams available in the country's medical treatment network. If the rate of contamination takes place in such a way that the breathing aids and the professionals who handle them can care for and cure the patients who arrive at the hospitals, the damage to both lives and the economy will be mitigated (totally avoided is not as possible). And the only way to do this is to adopt social isolation and deepen personal hygiene measures, to be made easier for those who are in public spaces out of necessity. As soon as the compatibility between the demand for medical and hospital care and the available supply (even after being increased by governments, at an emergency pace) balances out or comes close to it, the rules of social isolation can be gradually relaxed: commerce, services, spaces public spaces, agglomerations will be able to be, little by little, again appropriated by the population, never without care to avoid contamination (use of masks, hand hygiene, constant cleaning of environments and equipment, maintenance of a minimum distance between people, monitoring of cases, application tests, etc.).

There should also be no collision between levels of government in government actions to combat Covid-19. The federalism that characterizes and gives its name to Brazil (Federative Republic of Brazil) requires, theoretically, and constitutionally explicit (so that one goes from theory to practice) that the Union, States, Federal District and Municipalities act collaboratively among themselves in the search for the well-being of social being, dividing available resources and assigned responsibilities for this (fiscal federalism). In this federalism, everything that is of national interest is reserved for the Union, supplanting state, regional and municipal interests, to avoid that what a federative entity does interferes with what the other does. The fight against the pandemic is clearly framed in this logic that saves efforts and guarantees a single direction: what good would the city of Araraquara or the State of São Paulo, for example, adopt preventive measures against the virus, if everyone or others did not do so? The virus would win the game. Because the opposing team didn't know how to play, because politicians and citizens weren't able to do what they should — just for that. The virus is not invincible, but it does impose respectful behavior. And expensive, and difficult. And running off the field is no longer possible, the ball is rolling.

It should be noted, moreover, that to the extent that the Union makes the isolation rules more flexible or even suppresses, due to stupidity (especially economic, based on the search for a simple neoliberal fiscal balance), ignorance and opportunism of the group in central power, State governments will not be able to resist the pressure of desperate economic agents (many already without cash) to allow the resumption of economic activities. It will be left to the mayors to support the most effective fight against the pandemic (social isolation), standardizing it, supervising respect for it and taking punitive measures, absolutely unfriendly. Of the 5.570 mayors in the country, how many are candidates for re-election in the upcoming elections? How many are socially and healthily responsible? How many, in short, will resist those who, in such large numbers, assume the dilemma employment x survival of workers as real? The political dispute around a topic so crucial for the survival of Brazilians and for the Nation not to succumb to the pandemic should, at all costs, be overcome. And it won't be. Unfortunately it won't be. For this, there is a lack of politicians who are up to the challenges posed; in fact it was missing before, to deal with much smaller challenges.

There is not only a lack of quality politicians and parties in Brazil, at this serious moment, as, indeed, lately. The deficit is also great in terms of civility and citizen awareness. It is distressing to realize that there are not a few who make motorcades when they should be in isolation, those who continue to go to supermarkets with their family for a walk, those who refuse to wear masks and are approaching others in public places, those who think they are protected by God and the angels against diseases, those who cough close to others without taking care not to shoot them with what comes out of their lungs, those who continue, finally, supporting politicians who are explicitly harming them (“Ah, I regretted voting in Bolsonaro. Next time I will vote for Moro.” !!!!!!!!!!).

In any case, it is clear as daylight the need for governments, Union at the forefront, to put federalism to work against the pandemic, overcoming the false employment and income dilemma versus health. Without this, without collaboration between the three powers, at the three levels of government, many (the majority) will even survive (no one can be sure that they will be among these) and many will die, like trampled ants. And this urgent federative and political-institutional collaboration will not happen without pressure from society, without organization and mobilization, and, perhaps, without Bolsonaro — who knows nothing and has never known nothing but to rage and sow discord and hatred — is removed from office in the which should never have been placed. 

*Valdemir Pires, economist, is a professor at the Department of Public Administration at Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP)

See this link for all articles